Here we are at the end of January, how are we all doing?
No, really, how are we doing?
Because let’s be honest, this month has been a hell of a year. Lockdowns, a new president, floods, vaccines, 100,000 deaths.
I started the year by talking about return to work anxiety. In that piece I VERY wrongly hedged my bets on a lockdown u-turn coming later in the week, it happened the very next day, at least the Government are getting quicker at u-turns I suppose.
I’d say I’ve had a fairly mixed month, experiencing every mood going.
I handled the lockdown announcement far better than I had previous tier announcements. It seemed to make sense, what was and wasn’t allowed was clearer. I hate the tier system and the feelings of confusion and limbo, the idea that whatever limited freedoms we have can disappear from hour to hour. Lockdown is easier to deal with for me, however, as the month has gone on, it has all felt a little bit bleak and hopeless, like there isn’t an end in sight.
I know a lot of people have felt the same. As journalists we seem to be getting a little bit better at admitting that….
A friend said something to me this month, that I had genuinely never considered throughout this whole thing.
“Don’t underestimate the impact of reporting daily on a threat to life. We aren’t supposed to be okay with that”.
The moment I heard that I thought, “Bloody hell, he’s right. Why has no one ever bloody mentioned this? Why the bloody hell have I not considered this?”.
Because that statement is completely bang on the money. We aren’t supposed to okay with it, it is counter intuitive, unfortunately, it is pretty much the only story around and that isn’t changing any time soon.
Here’s something else I’ve noticed over the past month – and this isn’t just journalists – everyone who admits to feeling down, being angry, utterly pissed off or struggling, follows it up with either an apology or an “it isn’t that bad in the grand scheme of things”…..
CAN WE ALL STOP BEING TO BLOODY STOIC ABOUT THIS?
It’s okay to admit you’re missing your family and friends.
It’s okay to say home schooling is a disaster.
It’s okay to long for a night out dancing, that leads to 5 tequilas and waking up to a left-over kebab with ALL the garlic sauce stinking out the kitchen.
It’s alright to think that – whatever job you’re in – it’s hard at the minute.
It’s even okay to admit that your spouse, kids, dog, whoever you’re living with is doing your head in.
It’s okay to feel lonely.
It’s okay to say you just want a hug off your mum or best mate.
It’s a very British thing to try and dumb down how we’re feeling or to worry about how it’ll look to people. It’s like no one wants to be seen as trying to compete in the misery Olympics or something. No one is meant to be okay with any of this, it’s not a normal situation, even if it is the seemingly small/trivial things getting to you, it’s natural. No one will think you’re trying to win a prize for most hard done by.
At this point, everyone in every walk of life is feeling more than a little frayed around the edges.
I’ve been really up and down this month.
I’m at a point where I absolutely despise zoom with every inch of my being. Aside from the work chat (and hands up I can be quiet on there) I do not have the mental capacity to engage with a WhatsApp group chat (sorry girls you’ve been muted for a bit). I’m bored, restless and bad tempered. I’m missing people yet can’t be arsed talking to them (go figure). I hate the rinse and repeat nature of each day but need a routine to stick to, so I don’t doom scroll on twitter and end up with bed sores.
I just want to go for coffee somewhere or a hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows.
Having said that, I have mostly managed to stave off being utterly fucked off and stomping around constantly and there have been moments of light.
All three of my Grandparents have had their first vaccine injections.
One week, I only edited one Covid story!
I got to go to Cumbria on a story for the day – okay I got lost coming home and the sat nav took me over a fell in a storm, but it was a bloody good story and worth it.
I also got a perverse sense of enjoyment standing in the torrential rain in Manchester reporting on floods.
I know I have to get out the house every day and have dragged myself for a walk most days with a podcast and that’s helped me forget about the news for a good hour and a half at least every day.
My Spanish is getting better, partly thanks to Duolingo and partly thanks to Narcos (I wanted to pick up the swear words – Puta).
I think the biggest thing has been not drinking – don’t worry, I’m not going to be all preachy, personal choices and all that. It wasn’t a conscious choice, I wasn’t doing dry January, I just haven’t felt like drinking since Christmas Day. It definitely helps my mood. Don‘t get me wrong, there’s been days where taking the edge off with a cider has felt more than tempting – lockdown announcement for one; the day I lost control of my car on the motorway after hitting black ice at 5am and narrowly avoided crashing into multiple barriers and vehicles, being another (I have no idea how I didn’t crash, someone must have been looking down on me because I thought “I’ve fucking had it here”). I just haven’t felt like having a drink. I doubt it’ll be a permanent life choice, I really miss the pub.
I guess there’ll be plenty more ups and downs over the next few months, I can guarantee I’ll continue to be irritable and stroppy. There’ll be days where I can’t be bothered with anything, days where I’ll feel great and others just on an even keel.
I’ll remember that reporting on a threat to life every day is not normal, that speaking to people about so much sadness and trauma can be overwhelming and that it’s okay to have your own worries and struggles and admit to it. None of us are robots.
Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm